Economic pressures have prompted India’s in-house lawyers to take on a role of greater sophistication and responsibility, writes Ashok Sharma
The role of an in-house counsel in India has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Today, companies and their management teams want their in-house legal advisers to be business enablers. They expect their lawyers to act not just as legal counsel, but also as business counsel capable of providing strategic advice within the parameters of the law. It is not enough to say “this won’t work because it may contravene legal principles”. In-house counsel must be able to offer strategic solutions and alternatives to ensure that legal compliance does not stifle business goals.
Today, an in-house counsel’s performance is evaluated on the basis of how much value they are able to add to their company. Indeed, the role of an in-house counsel is central to the company’s performance. This is true in both the public and private sectors.
In the past, business decisions would only find their way to a corporate counsel if a legal issue was at stake, or if a litigation was about to begin. Now, company managers are quick to call on corporate counsel when they are deliberating on strategy and structuring a deal.
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Ashok Sharma FCIArb (UK) is the general counsel of MMTC and the founder president of the Indian Corporate Counsel Association (www.iccaonline.org.in).